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The Morning Dispatch: Biden Revives ‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy
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The Morning Dispatch: Biden Revives ‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy

As a candidate, he had criticized Donald Trump’s Migrant Protection Protocols.

Happy Tuesday! Like Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona, The Morning Dispatch has also sworn off use of the term “Latinx.” (We never used it.)

To quote the congressman: “Adding an x and creating a new word comes off as performative” and it is used “largely to appease white rich progressives.”

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Monday the Biden administration will engage in a full diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Olympics in Beijing, citing the Chinese Communist Party’s ongoing genocide, crimes against humanity, and other human rights abuses. “U.S. diplomatic or official representation would treat these Games as business as usual in the face of the PRC’s egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang,” Psaki said. “And we simply can’t do that.”

  • An anonymous senior Biden administration official told reporters Monday that President Biden is expected to warn Russian President Vladimir Putin in a video call later today that there will be “very real costs”—including sanctions and an increase in U.S. troop presence and capabilities along NATO’s Eastern Flank—if Russia attempts to invade Ukraine.

  • After Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces drew closer to the capital city of Addis Ababa in recent weeks, the Ethiopian government claimed Monday it had recaptured from the TPLF several key towns in the country’s Amhara region. The TPLF admitted it needed to make “territorial adjustments” to “minimize vulnerability,” but was adamant it wasn’t “overpowered.”

  • CNN reported Monday that Marc Short—former chief of staff to former Vice President Mike Pence—has been subpoenaed by the January 6 select committee and is cooperating with the investigation.

  • The Justice Department announced Monday it had filed a lawsuit under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act challenging Texas’ new congressional redistricting maps, which the DOJ claims “deny or abridge the rights of Latino and Black voters to vote on account of their race, color or membership in a language minority group.” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Monday he is “certain” his state will prevail.

  • A court on Monday found Aung San Suu Kyi—the civilian Burmese leader ousted in the country’s military coup earlier this year—guilty on charges of incitement and violating coronavirus restrictions, handing her a four-year sentence that was reduced to two years after a partial pardon. 

  • David Perdue—the former U.S. senator from Georgia who lost his reelection bid in January—announced Monday he is mounting a primary challenge to Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. Former President Donald Trump—still frustrated by Kemp’s refusal to assist his efforts to steal the 2020 election—endorsed Perdue last night, claiming he is the “only candidate” who can beat Democrat Stacey Abrams in 2022.

  • Max Rose—a moderate House Democrat from New York who lost reelection in 2020—announced Monday he is running for his old seat in 2022.

  • GOP Rep. Devin Nunes of California is resigning from Congress at the end of the month to become CEO of former President Trump’s new social media company, Trump Media & Technology Group. First elected in 2002, Nunes served as chair of the House Intelligence Committee from 2015 to 2019, and would have been a contender to lead the House Ways and Means Committee if Republicans recapture the chamber next year.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer* announced yesterday the recently deceased Bob Dole will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda on Thursday.

Biden Administration Reimplements ‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy

Haitian migrants cross the Rio Bravo to seek political asylum in the U.S. (Photo by Herika Martinez/AFP/Getty Images.)

In last year’s second and final presidential debate, then-candidate Joe Biden was sharply critical of his opponent’s immigration policies. “This is the first president in the history of the United States of America that anybody seeking asylum has to do it in another country,” he said, claiming such asylum seekers are “sitting in squalor” on the other side of the Rio Grande. “That’s never happened before in our country. You come to the United States and you make your case.”

He didn’t mention it by name, but Biden was referring specifically to the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) implemented by the Trump administration in January 2019. Also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, MPP allowed immigration enforcement officials to, according to the non-partisan TRAC Immigration Project, return more than 70,000 undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers crossing the United States’ southern border to Mexico to await any trials or proceedings.

“MPP will reduce the number of aliens taking advantage of U.S. law and discourage false asylum claims,” the Trump administration said at the time in justifying the shift. “Aliens will not be permitted to disappear into the U.S. before a court issues a final decision on whether they will be admitted and provided protection under U.S. law. Instead, they will await a determination in Mexico and receive appropriate humanitarian protections there.”

In large part because the returned asylum seekers reportedly often did not receive appropriate humanitarian protections in Mexico—the Human Rights First advocacy organization had cataloged more than 1,500 reported cases of murder, rape, torture, kidnapping, and assault among returned migrants as of February 2021—Biden pledged to end “Remain in Mexico,” and he suspended new enrollments in the program on his first day in office.

On February 2, Biden issued an executive order directing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to review MPP and determine whether to “terminate” or “modify” it. In early June, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas chose to “terminate.”

“I have determined that MPP does not adequately or sustainably enhance border management in such a way as to justify the program’s extensive operational burdens and other shortfalls,” he wrote. “Terminating MPP will, over time, help to broaden our engagement with the Government of Mexico, which we expect will improve collaborative efforts that produce more effective and sustainable results than what we achieved through MPP.”

But in a move that angered several constituencies within the Democratic coalition, the Biden administration on Monday not only revived the “Remain in Mexico” program—it expanded those efforts.

The decision wasn’t entirely Biden’s to make. Texas and Missouri sued the Biden administration back in April, claiming the MPP freeze “caused a massive uptick in illegal immigration.” And in August, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled that Mayorkas’ June memo terminating MPP violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Kacsmaryk enjoined the DHS memo and ordered the administration to enforce and implement MPP “in good faith” until it was lawfully rescinded in compliance with the APA.

Any such implementation, however, couldn’t begin until the United States secured the cooperation of the Mexican government. The two countries finally came to an agreement late last week. “For humanitarian reasons and on a temporary basis,” Mexico’s foreign ministry said, “the Government of Mexico has decided that it will not return to their home countries certain migrants who have an appointment to appear before an immigration judge in the United States to request asylum there.”

In exchange, the Biden administration agreed to make some changes to the Trump administration’s enforcement of the protocol. Under the new terms, the United States will provide resources to help ensure asylum seekers have access to safe and adequate shelters—as well as transportation to ports of entry from these shelters—and also give COVID-19 vaccines to MPP enrollees. Trial proceedings, the administration hoped, would “generally” wrap up within six months time, and any asylum seeker that demonstrates a “reasonable possibility of persecution” in Mexico will not be involuntarily sent back there. Some individuals would be exempted from MPP enrollment for old age or physical/mental disabilities.

The White House on Monday sought to call attention to those high-minded tweaks while lamenting the reason they were being made in the first place. “We have put in place a number of changes to … improve some humanitarian components,” press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters yesterday. “But we still feel that the program is inefficient, inhumane, and we did not eagerly reimplement it.”

DHS expressed similar sentiments last week. “Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas has repeatedly stated that MPP has endemic flaws, imposed unjustifiable human costs, pulled resources and personnel away from other priority efforts, and failed to address the root causes of irregular migration,” a press release read. “[But] the U.S. Government will work closely with the Government of Mexico to ensure that there are safe and secure shelters available for those enrolled in MPP; that individuals returned under MPP have secure transportation to and from U.S. ports of entry; and that MPP enrollees are able to seek work permits, healthcare, and other services in Mexico.”

Immigration advocates aren’t buying it. “We categorically reject the Biden administration’s claims that it can administer the Remain in Mexico program in a more humane manner,” Jorge Loweree, policy director at the American Immigration Council (AIC), said in a statement.

On Thursday, the union representing the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) asylum officers responsible for screening MPP enrollees lambasted the “irredeemably flawed” policy and asked the White House to reverse it. “While the Administration has taken measures to mitigate some of the most egregious elements of MPP’s prior iteration,” the statement read, “a program that requires asylum seekers to remain in one of the most dangerous parts of the world while their cases are pending in U.S. immigration courts cannot guarantee their protection from persecution and torture.”

With the Biden administration still trying to kill “Remain in Mexico” once and for all even as it brings MPP back to life, it’s fair to wonder how much of a priority the White House is placing on ensuring the program functions as it has laid out. “I’ve talked to people who are on the ground who work in shelters, they’re scratching their heads,” Jennifer Ibañez Whitlock, policy counsel with the American Immigration Lawyers Association, told The Dispatch. “As far as we’re concerned, it doesn’t seem like there are actually plans in place for shelters where these people are going to lay their heads as they’re waiting for their hearings.”

“We don’t see that significant of a change from the last administration,” she said.

One area where there has been a significant change from the last administration is the number of illegal border crossings, which reached a record high earlier this year after encounters along the border were artificially deflated by lockdowns and the pandemic in 2020. 

In that light, it makes more sense that the Biden administration was reportedly split on keeping MPP around as a deterrent back in the spring, and that this week, it actually expanded eligibility for the policy beyond both the court order and the Trump administration to include asylum seekers hailing from anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, not just Spanish-speaking countries (and Brazil) as before.

“By expanding the Remain in Mexico program to nationals from any country in the Western Hemisphere, the Biden administration has made the program even broader than under Trump,” Loweree said in his statement. “Under this new expansion, even Haitian nationals who don’t speak Spanish will be forced to wait in Mexico. This disparate impact on Black immigrants comes on the heels of [the] administration’s mass-disappearance of thousands of Haitians in Del Rio and cannot be ignored.”

Republicans, meanwhile, have been enjoying Biden’s about-face. “The U.S. is restarting the Remain in Mexico program for asylum seekers,” Rep. Jim Hagedorn tweeted. “We need to bring back more robust Trump-era policies to secure our borders and protect American citizens!”

“Remain in Mexico is a commonsense, America First policy that reduces the incentives for illegal immigration,” Rep. Jason Smith added. “It’s sad that Joe Biden had to be dragged to court to keep our borders secure.”

While there are certainly plenty of ways in which Biden has been more lax on border enforcement than his immediate predecessor, Cato Institute immigration research fellow David Bier tells The Dispatch the current president has remained strict with the enforcement of Title 42, the Trump-era public health order that allows for all-but immediate deportations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are in this very weird place where we’re implementing Title 42 more strongly than the Trump administration did,” an anonymous Biden appointee told CBS News last month.

In that regard, Bier said the reimposition of MPP could be less of a disruption than many believe it will be. “The Mexican government has been accepting people back throughout the entire year under Title 42, the Centers for Disease Control authority to expel people,” he said. “Taking people back under a different authority, that doesn’t really change much.”

Worth Your Time

  • In The New Yorker, Dexter Filkins profiles Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and recounts how the 39-year-old English teacher was thrust into the role of Belarusian opposition leader seeking to topple a dictator. “Only three weeks remained until the election, and Tsikhanouskaya had no training in politics,” Filkins writes. “‘She knew nothing—literally nothing,’ her aide Anna Krasulina told me. ‘We told her, ‘You will need a political platform,’ and she said, ‘What is a political platform?’ We told her she would need to meet journalists. She asked, ‘Why do I have to meet journalists?’’ On the stump, though, she was fluent and forceful, portraying herself as an ordinary citizen stifled by an unresponsive autocrat. ‘I’m tired of enduring, I’m tired of being silent, I’m tired of living in fear!’ she told a crowd in Minsk. ‘What about you?’ The crowd roared back.”

  • Political scientist Francis Fukuyama’s latest piece for American Purpose makes the case for  protecting Ukraine from Russian aggression. “Believers in liberal democracy hold that individual rights protected by the rule of law is not just a Western eccentricity, but something that is broadly desired by human beings around the world,” he writes. “Slavic peoples as much as anyone else deserve to be able to determine their own future, both as individuals and as nations. Liberal societies can keep as much of their traditional culture as they want, while allowing their citizens to enjoy basic political and civil rights. … If Putin gets away with seizing and holding Ukraine, it will set a precedent for other powers.”

  • Politico media writer Jack Shafer argues in his latest piece that it’s well past time for everyone—particularly journalists—to stop paying so much attention to cable news. “Nary a day goes by without somebody saying something stupid somewhere on cable that ignites a national uproar that seizes the news cycle for days,” he writes. “[But] the average audience commanded by Maddow and Cooper and Hannity and all the others slithering down your cable cord is so tiny you can almost get away with calling cable news a niche media. … Do we really want to continue to indulge an aged minority’s irrelevant obsession with who said what on cable news? Can’t somebody turn the damn thing off?”

Presented Without Comment

Also Presented Without Comment

Toeing the Company Line

  • On Monday’s episode of Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah discuss last week’s school shooting in Michigan—and whether the shooter’s parents should be charged—before turning to the possible demise of a non-Roe Supreme Court precedent and an intriguing new appeal to the court.

  • On the site today, we have two remembrances of Bob Dole. Scott Reed, Dole’s campaign manager in 1996, wrote that politics “was a business that was both deeply personal to him and a source of great joy,” so “he would work with anyone to get the job done.” And Nicolaus Mills recalled interviewing Dole about his work raising money for the World War II memorial. “For Dole talking about the memorial was, I realized, a way of talking about what you owed the country and what the country owed you,” he wrote. 

Let Us Know

A more practical question today: We’ve heard from a few of you in recent days who have experienced issues with the end of TMD getting cut off by your email platform (Gmail, Apple Mail, etc.).

Has this happened to you, and if so, do you generally click through to continue reading? Do you typically read TMD in your email inbox or on our website?

Reporting by Declan Garvey (@declanpgarvey), Andrew Egger (@EggerDC), Charlotte Lawson (@lawsonreports), Audrey Fahlberg (@AudreyFahlberg), Ryan Brown (@RyanP_Brown), Harvest Prude (@HarvestPrude), and Steve Hayes (@stephenfhayes).

Correction, Tuesday, December 7, 2021: An earlier edition of this newsletter incorrectly identified Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer as Senate Minority Leader. We regret the error.